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CARMEL, Ind. -- Colts coach Tony Dungy said he knows some people would prefer him to steer clear of the gay marriage debate, but he used a speech Tuesday night to clearly stake out his position.
Clear stance: "We're not anti- anything else. We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote the family -- family values the Lord's way," Colts coach Tony Dungy told a crowd of more than 700 Tuesday night at the Indiana Family Institute's banquet. Dungy and his wife, Lauren, were presented with the institute's "Friends of the Family" award. - Kelly Wilkinson / The Star
Dungy told more than 700 people at the Indiana Family Institute's banquet that he agrees with that organization's position supporting a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
"I appreciate the stance they're taking, and I embrace that stance," Dungy said.
Dungy's comments came in the final three minutes of a wide-ranging, 20-minute speech that recounted stories from the Colts' Super Bowl run, related his interest in prison ministry and described how he wondered whether his firing in Tampa was God's signal for him to leave football and enter ministry. He also talked about his efforts to make the Colts more family-friendly by encouraging players to bring their kids to practice.
Local and national gay-rights organizations had criticized Dungy for accepting the invitation to appear at the banquet. The institute, affiliated with Focus on the Family, has been one of the leading supporters of the marriage amendment.
"IFI is saying what the Lord says," Dungy said. "You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I'm on the Lord's side."
The coach said his comments shouldn't be taken as gay bashing, but rather his views on the matter as he sees them from a perspective of faith.
"We're not anti- anything else. We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote the family -- family values the Lord's way," Dungy said.
Previous IFI banquets had drawn at most 440 guests, according to organizers. But the appearance of the Super Bowl-winning coach to receive the institute's "Friend of the Family" award set a record.
Seats for the event at the Ritz Charles, one of the institute's largest annual fundraisers, went for $75 apiece. In addition to the more than $50,000 raised from ticket sales, the institute auctioned off enough Dungy-signed Colts footballs, helmets and paraphernalia to raise nearly another $20,000.
In keeping with the Colts theme, Dungy was introduced by Colts punter Hunter Smith, whose Christian band Connersvine served as the evening's entertainment.
Bil Browning, managing editor of bilerico.com, a blog that focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in Indiana, was surprised to learn of Dungy's remarks.
"It is unfortunate that coach Dungy has chosen to align himself with the Indiana Family Institute," he said. "The Colts were supported this season by all of their fans -- gay and straight."
Among those not surprised was the Rev. Clarence C. Moore, Dungy's pastor at Northside New Era Baptist Church. Moore said Dungy previously voiced support after Moore's sermons proclaiming the Bible's opposition to homosexuality.
Debbie Huskins, Zionsville, said Dungy's comments square with her views of the Bible, and she welcomed the coach's public statement on the topic.
"I guess I just consider him more in this arena as a man and a father and a man of God, not just a coach. That's his job, but who he is, is a man of God. And that's how he was speaking tonight."
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